Comic Book Movies vs The Oscars

oscars-nominations-marvelI caught bits and pieces of the Oscars on Sunday while working hard on my novel. And based upon what I saw, heard and read both during and after, I can’t help but think this may have been the single most contentious year in the award show’s history.

The spectacle felt like it managed in someway to rile, vex or anger almost everyone at some point. And I don’t mean in the funny, early Family Guy way. Several political statements were made, ranging from Selma and racial diversity to pay gaps for women. Edward Snowden winning an Oscar for best documentary and a somewhat brow raising comment from Sean Penn involving Birdman director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and a green card.

But to be fair, at least these statements were somewhat counter balanced by moments of emotional connection. Such as when J.K. Simmons pushed the audience to call their parents. Or when Dana Perry called for suicide awareness, and Graham Moore encouraged kids who are struggling to fit in and find a place in life to stay weird.

And then there were the good old fashioned disappointments, such as The Lego Movie not even being considered for best animated film (which went to Big Hero 6.) And despite an incredible showing at the box office, American Sniper lost to Birdman for best picture, which dismayed conservatives who loved Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s biopic about Sniper Chris Kyle.

I’ve actually seen both films. The fact that American Sniper is a biographical film kind of tempers my response, and not because it’s bad. It’s a fantastic film. But I loathed myself whenever I enjoyed watching it, as my conscience struck me with a rolled newspaper, shouting, “These events actually happened! How the hell can you say you are entertained by this movie?” Eastwood has crafted his best movie yet. But by walking the non-fiction line, the film demands respect that curbs one’s enthusiasm.

But I digress.

It is actually an intriguing coincidence that Birdman is about former superhero actor Riggan (Michael Keaton) who is trying to put together a Broadway performance to prove he can create art. The movie follows a pattern of high-personal drama storytelling, as the play’s previews always find a way to go wrong, inciting powerful, stressful and volatile reactions from the actors and producers involved. Riggan in particular wrestles with his alter ego Birdman who whispers old glories in his ear, and constantly urges him to return to the camera. All this, while play critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan) desires to destroy Riggan’s efforts out of hatred for “movie star frauds,” adding to the already intense pressure.

That last point seems to hit a sensitive nerve both in the movie and reality. After the Oscars, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn addressed some quips against superhero films that happened during the award show.

I feel that Gunn is only giving voice to a frustration that has been mounting for sometime in the film industry. As John Scalzi correctly pointed out in 2008, no superhero flick has ever been nominated for best picture. But against his prediction then that The Dark Knight might be nominated, the aforementioned fact remains true even today. Although Heath Ledger did posthumously receive the academy award for best supporting actor that year, it does feel like superhero movies aren’t exactly respected.

Guardians-of-the-GalaxyGuardians of the Galaxy is intriguing because it’s a great, fun and very successful film that has nearly reached cult status. I actually like it even more than The Avengers if you’d believe it, perhaps because Gunn united an ensemble cast built on no prior movies and still totally nailed it. Yet at the same time, many of the film’s fans love it a little too passionately, somehow giving it 110%, A+++. Thus despite how good the movie is already, they still found a way to make it impossibly overrated.

This is not a knock on Guardians of the Galaxy. I will probably catch its sequel opening day with a smile on my face. It’s just that the fans need to calm down a notch.

But it’s worth discussing. Guardians of the Galaxy was packed full of aliens who felt more human and more emotionally deep than most other characters we’ve seen on the big screen. Science fiction, horror and fantasy can be even more potent than drama, because those genres force us to explore the human reaction to events, technologies, politics and peoples that we may never normally interact with. So why is it that some look down on the mere attempt to explore our potential in a theoretical and thoroughly fictional context? Is it because they want the fiction to always mirror reality, for the masses to know the cultural elite’s struggle to make it in the industry?

I could certainly believe that latter point. In 2011, the films The Artist and Hugo both revolved around the struggle of an actor and movie director respectively. And both films did very, very well for themselves with the academy, as well as other award ceremonies. The insinuation that the winners should be those who best reflect the personal strife within the industry only adds fuel to the fire, and raises the timeless question of how we should define art.

But before I close out, I will say that Birdman was a very good film. Did it deserve best picture? I can’t even say. There’s no question in my mind that it deserved the nomination. But I will say it’s almost ironic… that the winner depicts some of the frustrations and grievances that Gunn, and many other genre defining directors, bear.

I Am Not Coal

Today, I am not proud of myself.

As of late, I’ve been looking for a new position. I loathe to admit that the situation at my current place of employment has depleted my morale considerably, and I can’t deny that this loss has affected my better judgment. It has been almost two years since I’ve been on the job market and there were certain lessons that have been forgotten since my last foray.

A little background to understand my situation. I work as a Software Developer. The field is in considerable demand, and the nature of the workplace environment has given rise to the business of recruiting. Thus, once a programmer places their resume for display, they are often swiftly besieged by phone calls and soliciting emails. Swarms of headhunters descend upon us, individuals with no concept of timing or personal space. There are only a couple, and I strictly mean only two, whom with I’ve developed any rapport. That is how rarely it is to be treated well in the placement industry.

Last week, I took the call from a random recruiter I had never met before. Out of the many, this one proved tenacious in speaking for a particular client, insisting without modesty that everyone placed under this employer never quit, the turnover nonexistent. When I tried to discuss salary, my position was battered down to the absolute minimum of what I would accept. I eventually agreed to be submitted as a potential candidate.

The recruiter, with unyielding optimism, took it upon herself to insist that I maintain a positive attitude. This sentiment aggravated me, but I said nothing.

I was submitted and the day hadn’t passed when the client showed interest. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to a phone screening with the manager. The process took roughly 40 minutes, and I nothing about the call bothered me. I actually wasn’t dissuaded by the manager, which piqued my curiosity about the job in question. I agreed to a face to face.

But shortly after, there were red flags. The first interview had to be postponed due to a patch release. I understood. Server updates aren’t always routine affairs and there are plenty of possible pitfalls. But I perked my brow when the recruiter emailed me asking how the interview went, oblivious to the rescheduling.

The weather and other circumstances caused a series of rain checks. And each time, the recruiter contacted me again, hoping for a placement and the resulting commission. The manager, it seemed, excluded her from the loop, and she further taxed my patience with prods for updates. But the man seemed determined to meet me and persevered.

At last, I went in for the face to face. To their credit, the commute was not bad. But the moment I entered the office, I immediately felt a sense of dread. The lighting was paltry. Entire hallways were converted with incredibly small cubicles, where the cramped employees sat with their backs turned, and their monitors for all to see. There was not even a modest attempt to feign privacy. My spirits sank even further when I entered a conference room barely bigger than a full bath, and was seated sandwiched between the wall and table.

I hadn’t even begun my employment and I utterly detested the work environment.

Are they going to fit you and a laptop in a shoebox? A voice in my head seethed. Did you see those other employees? Droning away in this hole as co-workers pass by, walking this labyrinth of close corridors. Denied sunlight and quiet.

As the interview began, I was informed the process would take two hours, to which I shirked and said that I only had time for one. And the questions immediately started on the wrong foot, as they asked for details of the smallest features that developers use and never really think about. On the job, we never really worry about this issues because the answers are just a Google search away or consorting through Stack Overflow questions. A good developer is heuristic.

Let me get this straight. That voice echoed in my psyche again. They’re expecting you to fight, grovel and struggle to prove what you know, just so you can sketch out an existence in this shit hole? For less than you want?

And no matter how dark that voice sounded, I realized it was right. I could sit there and smile, nodding my head, wasting time in my ever dwindling life, scrapping my brain to obtain answers for something undesirable. Or I could take a stand.

I stopped the interview. And I told the manager, point blank, that I didn’t want to work there.

The manager, who needed perhaps two seconds to get over his initial shock at what is effectively a powerful insult, responded tactfully. “That’s fine. It’s best not to waste either of our time.”

He of course showed me the door, guiding me with both swiftness and silence to the office entrance. He didn’t even bother to escort me back to the lobby. As I walked out of the building, I sent the recruiter an email informing them that the interview went south. She responded with an immediate phone call, completely failing to understand or even listen to the problems. All she knew were the statistics, how no one placed in this agency was ever dissatisfied. And of course when I told her what had happened, she informed me that her recruitment firm could never represent me again.

I asked her if she had even been to the site. She said she had not. When I tried to explain my grievances in detail, she ignored them, screaming over the phone, “You burned bridges!”

Then let them burn, the voice responded. To her, you’re nothing but coal she’s shoveling into the furnace anyway.

At this point, I told her to go fuck herself, and hung up.

My disappointment with myself wasn’t because of how the interview went. Or even my handling of the recruiter. It was because I let myself be dragged into this situation. I should have listened to my gut and told the recruiter no. I should have known that the eternal optimist is often terrible at empathy. I’m tired of not caring.

And honestly, I just want something I can be passionate about again. I won’t allow myself to do this again. But I also won’t be put in this situation again, either.

KickStarter Updates and Citadels

I really prefer to post on Tuesday and Thursday. But some weeks, that’s just not possible. Too much going on can keep me from getting my thoughts down. This week it was coding assignments on my other blog, Mad Tech-Priest. I have this new thing where whenever someone challenges me to do a coding test, I put the answer up there just to prove I know my stuff and look really… cool, I guess.

You got me. I don’t know what cool is.

So first the news, and not the boring kind. The Conan board game finished it’s KickStarter round of funding two days ago, and it was a whooping $3.3 million. This makes the game the most successfully funded board game in KickStarter history. Yes, I went ahead and bought a copy of it after the great fun I’ve tried Citadels with friends. As of late, I feel inclined to try something bold and new. And maybe playing games as Conan is just the way to do it.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong is closing in on the $1 million, at which point backers can enjoy the extended mini-campaign at the end. It has 4 days left and (as of this post) about $70,000 more to go. The game is fully funded either way, but one can always hope for a little more. This is going to be a close one.

Speaking of close. Project Scissors: NightCrywhich I covered in my previous blog entry, is starting to rally some. It’s too early to call it a comeback just yet, but the jump in funding for the project has put them just under the half way mark. With 9 days left to go, stranger things can happen.

CitadelsSo as of last weekend, I’ve been playing a new (to me) card game called Citadels. The primary goal of the game is just to build a medieval city using gold pieces. But more than a race, other players have the ability to thwart you as they rush to finish their own towns.

Game play revolves around picking one or two (during 2-3 player games) roles with different abilities, with each role ranked to determine play order. Strategy revolves around what role a player chooses (and thus denies to other players), forcing players to build a careful strategy. While there is a tiny element of chance in the game, as players cannot know what city cards they’ll draw, the randomness is mitigated by being able to choose one of two drawn cards. Thus strategy reigns supreme.

The roles vary in value per each round. The King, for example, allows you to have first pick of roles during the next round. The Assassin can wipe a player’s turn out, while the Merchant can net extra gold for each green market district you possess. Bluffing is valuable because if one player grows abusive with a particular role, such as using the Warlord to destroy rival districts, that player might find himself the target of the Assassin. Or the Architect might have his gold stolen by the Thief to keep him from suddenly building three districts.

A final detail is that while getting all 8 districts of your city built gives you extra points, it does not guarantee that you’ll win the game. There are plenty of cheap, low value districts that can speed a player to the finishing line. But it’s the total value and combination of all districts that determines the winner. If one player builds several high value districts while another gets eight lower value ones, that player still might not win. This can make for some interesting back peddling later, forcing the owner of the cheaper citadel to react and increase their value.

Three more things give Citadels great value. First, it can be played for up to 8 players, making it a fantastic party game. Second, I was able to purchase it for $20, which included its expansion set. And third, the game really isn’t difficult to learn, although the rules change slightly depending on the number of players who have joined. So if you’re looking for some fun for the remainder of this winter, check it out.

Project Scissors: Night Cry KickStarter

NightCryA crime is coming rather close to being committed. And the penalty for letting it occur is to be very, very bored next winter.

You may not be familiar with their names, but if you’re a gamer from the SNES to PlayStation era, you’ll certainly know their work. Hifumi Kono, creator of the Clock Tower series, has teamed up with Takashi Shimizu, director of The Grudge to form Project Scissors.

And while that’s a great start to the talent for a horror game, it’s further compounded by Art Director Kiyoshi Arai (several Final Fantasy games), Creature Designer Masahiro Ito (Silent Hill). And musically speaking, composers Nobuko Toda and Michiru Yamane (Metal Gear Solid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night respectively).

The resulting KickStarter game is called Night Cry.

A spiritual successor to Kono’s Clock Tower, the idea revolves around exploration, perhaps some puzzles, and ultimately running and hiding instead of fighting a foe that stalks you. Thus survival is yet another mind bending challenge.

Originally intended for mobile devices, enough fans pushed until the project was changed for release on the PC. But despite the promising amount of talent and the fair game price, they’re suffering from a lack of funds. More than a third of the allotted time has elapsed, and with roughly 20% of their $300,000 goal met. One possible reason for this is the fact the game is being released only in English at the moment and not Japan, which leaves it primarily to the English speaking countries to pick up the slack.

I went ahead and pitched $25 towards it, and I recommend that any horror fans out there do the same. For horror to live on, it has to be left to the artist and not made corporate. Lest we get another Dead Space 3 on our hands.

But that’s not the only item of Japanese influence on KickStarter.

SamuraiAfter some digging, I found something for war gamers, or just people who want some eastern flair to their table top games. Check out this nifty Samurai Lords KickStarter from Oliver James. These awesome pieces are based on the Battle of Sekigahara, and are more historic in detail than fantasy focused.

While I’m not sure there will be enough figures to fill out an entire table for war games, it does strike me as a great way to get a samurai character or two for specialty pen and paper RPGs or perhaps even some modding for Shadowrun or Warhammer/Warhammer 40k games.

So check these out, folks.

The State of Television (Part I)

Before you read this, I suggest putting on The Heavy’s “Short Change Hero” as recommended listening.

Tonight is the premiere of the third season of The Americans, an amazing show about the espionage fought on U.S. soil during the Cold War. A recap of the last two seasons will be available at the bottom of this blog post if anyone is afraid of spoilers. But in the mean time, here are some shows that you should be watching.

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23

donttrustthebI was told that ABC has a tendency to cancel genius shows all the time, and Nahnatchka Khan’s creation was unfortunately on that list after just two seasons. Despite this, its 26 episodes are comic gold.

Krysten Ritter of Breaking Bad fame plays the title-suggested Chloe (who is somewhat reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly), while Dreama Walker is June, the more angelic of the two. Toss in a plucky/perverted neighbor, Eric André as the boy next door and at work, and James Van Der Beek as… James, Van Der Beek and his assistant Luther (Ray Ford), and you got yourself great combinations of comedy material.

There’s a couple of a great points to mention about Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23. First, events mattered. Something that happens, even from a comedy standpoint, would be mentioned or have an impact in future episodes. The characters grow, but never so far as to totally lose sight of the show’s premise.

Second, they almost never used running gags outside an episode. They were constantly coming up with snappy dialogue and great material that never got recycled or reused. In fact, I would say the most stand out character with the best lines came from Ray Ford, especially towards the end of the series run.

The first season is primarily spent with June trying to make rent while building a life in New York, against Chloe’s many scams and cons. In the second, June finally lands the business job she dreamed about in the private sector, while Chloe actually starts to learn about how to actually care about people, reluctantly of course. As the show came to an end, it was hinted that the third season may have focused on James Van Der Beek’s hunt to find his biological father, an element that was addressed in the last episode but not quite resolved.

In the show’s short life, you could tell that creator Khan had a knack for carefully evolving her characters without totally destroying the core premise. We’ll never know if this trend would have continued, but the approach left us with two great seasons as opposed to five to ten seasons that started great and began to decline, much like How I Met Your Mother. So if you’re looking for great laughs without a huge commitment of time, check out Don’t Trust the B on Netflix.

The League

the leagueFX’s series about a group of friends who run a fantasy football team will be coming to an end with season 7 this fall. For those who would be leery of sports comedy, the fantasy football elements are in the background, never something that overtakes the comic value of the show. Unlike Don’t Trust the B however, the show’s accumulation of running gags could fill a museum, making it somewhat difficult for the uninitiated to dive into the later seasons.

But The League is not short of acting talent by any stretch. Nick Kroll plays Ruxin, a Jewish lawyer with an uncontrollable sense of sarcasm. Mark Duplass is the smooth operator Pete. Katie Aselton plays Jenny, who is married to Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi), the league’s overly nervous commissioner and all around terrible drafter. Paul Scheer is Andre, the persistently teased chum whose success as a plastic surgeon barely makes up for his shortcomings in clothing tastes and clinginess. Jon LaJoie plays Taco… yes, that’s his name, the perpetually stoned musician and capitalist always founding a new, crazy business venture. Finally, Jason Mantzoukas plays Rafi, a hilarious sleazebag introduced as Ruxin’s brother-in-law in season 2.

There are considerable differences between how the first three seasons were executed verses the next two (I’ve seen all of season 5, and am waiting for the 6th on Netflix). The early episodes tended to have a more Seinfeld quality to them, where the jokes somehow folded into plot and contained a goes-around-comes-around quality to them. Taco also used to provide one musical piece per season that is… simply unforgettable and lyrically brilliant. You can check out one sample here, but be aware that it’s NSFW.

Seasons four and five have suffered somewhat though. While the opening and closing episodes are great, the middle of the these seasons have dried a little, with stories that don’t seem to pan out as one might hope. While incidents threaten the characters with change or growth, the circumstances often fold back on themselves and return them right where they started. On the plus side, Ruxin and Taco’s need to end each finale with incredible fanfare is a laugh fest that condones any weaknesses.

It is decided. Check out The League for great, easy laughs.

The Americans

The_Americans,_season_3So originally I was going to mention a few more shows in this blog post, such as Sherlock, Homeland and The Venture Bros, but I think I’ll save those for another time. Perhaps as part of another recap before the release of House of Cards season 3 on February 27th. I’ll flash a spoiler warning below so those who haven’t seen it know when to stop reading.

The Americans stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings. To the outside, they are a loving married couple with two teenage children and a travel agency business. But to Moscow, they are assets in the game of espionage, trying their best to steal technologies and brilliant minds from the Reagan administration. The show constantly dips into history, covering the shock waves behind the scenes of the assassination attempt against Reagan, and the ARPANET, which would one day become the internet.

The drama for the Jennings is unlimited, as their assignments vary from cultivating potential intelligence sources, to tracking and stalking to occasional high risk kidnappings. As if it wasn’t enough, their children Paige and Henry (Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati) have begun to suspect something about their parents, while their neighbor Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) is an FBI agent who inadvertently has been investigating them.

Spoilers to follow if you haven’t seen the last two seasons. If you haven’t seen the previous seasons, get going!

The first season was primarily a base building approach, meant to establish understanding of what and how the Jennings operate and the dynamic of their relationship. It also set the stage for Stan, who created a counter intelligence resource of his own within the Russian embassy by blackmailing Nina (Annet Mahendru). The situation eventually built itself into a circle where Stan nearly ended up capturing his own neighbors, but also shifted Nina’s loyalties there and back again after Stan killed a friend of hers from the embassy.

While the first season was very good, the second season was even better. The Jennings find themselves caught up investigating a murder that happened against another agent family, the Connors, all while pursuing a new stealth project the Americans are working. While Henry has a few acts of rebellion, it’s ultimately Paige who lashes out, wanting to join a church and growing increasingly suspicious of her parents. Nina works with the Russian embassy to turn Stan, but Moscow will either see Nina succeed, or have her punished for her earlier betrayal.

And the resolutions are chilling. An ultimatum is delivered to Stan to save Nina’s life, but Stan cannot bring himself to forsake his country. Thus, Nina is sent back to Russia for probable (though not confirmed) execution. The Jennings efforts were in vain as the stealth project was nothing more than an elaborate counter espionage operation. And if Paige’s concerns about her parents aren’t bad enough, it turns out that the murder of the Connors isn’t without comparison: The family had been executed by their son, Jared (Owen Campbell), who was being groomed as a homegrown spy for the KGB.

In the final episode, the Jenning’s handler Claudia (Margo Martindale) delivers an order and not a request. The Jennings are to begin preparing their children to become second-generation KGB agents. Because they are born in the United States, they would be eligible for secret clearance positions. The situation immediately begins to divide Phillip and Elizabeth at home as Elizabeth is unimpressed with American culture while Phillip, guilty from killing so many individuals, doesn’t want this life for his children.

The Americans airs tonight at 10 pm EST on FX.

Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2015! Out Now!

One of my earliest stories, years in the making, is now available thanks to the folks over at DefCon One Publishing!

msjIf you enjoy mad science, and I mean REAL mad science and not that engineering stuff, check out my tale Sins and Dust in this release, edited by Jeremy Zimmerman and Dawn Vogel! It includes thirteen tales by authors like Marla L. Anderson, J. M. Perkins, Dorian Graves, Lorraine Schein, and Sylvia Heike! It’s also complete with illustrations from Steve Maschuck, Katie Nyborg, Dawn Vogel, and Scarlett O’Hairdye to name a few.

Available for the Kindle on Amazon today.

The Friday Happenings & Surviving the Political Open Season

conan

So Monolith Board Games LLC has an amazing looking Conan board game Kickstarter going on. I may or may not invest in it just to get my hands on one of the most awesome tributes to Robert E. Howard’s work. But I need to get off my butt and organize a game night or two with friends. Once we got that ball rolling, the game is easier to justify. Regardless, you should check it out.

On the subject of Kickstarters, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is closing in on its final funding tier of $700,000. A thing of note by the way, Racter and Duncan Wu will, as I suspected in my previous post, get their personal missions as part of the game’s regular story.

Outside the realm of games, I’m really looking forward to the new movie Chappie, coming this March 6th, directed by Neill Blomkamp of District 9 fame. The story is a familiar one, I admit. Robots are used to police third world countries, giving the people there the chance they need to work their way out of poverty. But the designer of said police robots has, of course, a vision for machine learning that results in an actual artificially intelligent robot hence named Chappie.

ChappieBased on the commercials, I suspect the film follows this pattern: Showcase of how these machines have changed the world. A distrusting head of some division (Hugh Jackman) is in charge of rival bigger-badder-better robot development. A developer (Dev Patel) finally creates a machine that thinks, names it Chappie, and it charms us. Hugh Jackman’s character finds out and tries to kill Chappie, who then escapes and allies himself with a street gang who is less than-thrilled with the tilted status quo. So Chappie fights back, accidentally causes chaos and has to correct it. Probably dies at the end or leads us to believe he has.

In my theory, the material is nothing new, so I suspect that Blomkamp is just aiming to do it well. Movies tend to be the short stories of film, at least compared to television. And there’s only so much time to tell your tale, making novelty a challenge.

Originally, I wanted to write a full blown blog post about surviving the dreaded political season that is approaching. As both partisan groups are currently courting their candidates, tempers have been high on news channel comment boards.

Instead, I’m just going to give a few safety tips for the upcoming season. Politics is a very fast and easy way to make lasting, unforgiving enemies. Having an expressed opinion at all is all it could take. If you have no interest in earning your “wing” from labelists and igniting the inevitable controversy, remember a few rules:

Political Survival Tips for the Neutral:

1) No matter how funny SNL’s skit about such-and-such candidate was last night, keep it to yourself. Don’t retweet or share it from any source. Likewise, stay away from dressing as any politicians for Halloween as you are courting the controversy.

2) If you’re moderating on comment boards, your Facebook account or just dinner, remember to shut down any talk involving politicians or the election. You have to be fair though and shut down the discussion and topic as a whole, not just the guys you disagree with. Shutting down one side over the other can paint you as unfairly partial. While this might be seen as overkill, the willingness to host said conversation at all can be seen as a “flare” for others to join in.

3) If someone is being a true zealot, and will not stop spamming news and op-eds from politically-slanted news sources, remember that Facebook has a handy “I don’t want to see this” option on the top right of every news feed post. This will reduce posts of said nature. You can also do the “Unfollow <name>” option to entirely remove this person from your news feed without unfriending them, a great way to placate family members without alienating them.

4) If you’re an artist-type who is tempted to take a side, remember that doing so will revoke your status as “neutral.” You might curry the favor of the side you join, but you’ll lose the opposition. Worse, those who were neutral before will have less reason to trust you as they probably enjoyed the relief you offered from having no obvious political stripes, and they may even suspect a bias in your work. Do as you will, but remember that declaring allegiances has a cost!

5) Finally, don’t attempt to engage the conversation from an open-minded neutral point of view either. Both sides are firmly capable of the with-us-or-against-us mentality where you can be branded just for being willing to hear out the opposition. While you might entertain the possibility of being the great peacemaker, the reality is that the only thing that effectively changes peoples’ minds is experience. And painstakingly few are willing to weigh the facts and points without trying to rabble rouse.

Hopefully that should keep your beige alert from going more than mellow. Stay out of trouble in 2015, folks! It’s Banh Mi here at work and I maybe talking about that this weekend.